Compress to De-stress

I really loathe the instructions given to people who tell them to statically stretch before any work out. In my humble opinion, which is worth what you paid for it, that’s just asking for torn and overstretched, overtaxed muscles and tendons. We often ask too much of our bodies before they’re ready to meet our demands. But, if you’re that person who insists on static stretching before activity, may I suggest a few alternative options?

Option 1: Stop it. No, really. Just stop. Don’t risk injury or premature wear and tear.

Option 2: Dynamic stretching. Before your run, hike, bike, swim, climb, game, match, whatever, do a few rounds of sun salutations to get your body warm. There are a few progressions or versions of sun salutations. I prefer this one:
• mountain
• forward extension
• downward facing dog
• Right foot forward lunge
• forward extension
• Right foot back lunge
• downward facing dog
• forward extension
• chair pose
• mountain
Jumping or hopping the feet forward and back from down dog to forward extension helps to build heat in the muscles and body and gets a more cardio flow going.

Option 3: release by compression. I previously mentioned this method in relation to plantar fascitis. By applying pressure or compression to the muscles, it gets the fibers firing and warm as they work to resist the compression, allowing for a deeper and more gentle release as they relax. Examples:
• Groin/hamstring stretch with a block
     Sit with back against a wall, holding a block at its most narrow side between the feet. Place the hands on the knees and press the knees into the hands as you press the knees down with the hands creating resistance in the groins/inner thighs. Release and breathe 3 deep breaths and repeat on the block’s middle width, and again on the block’s widest width if you have that flexibility. Otherwise start with the most narrow width and gradually work up to the widest width.*

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• Groin stretch in reclined bound angle
    While in reclined bound angle pose, press the heels of the hands into the hip creases as if you were pushing your legs away from your shoulders, while resisting with the legs. Stay here for 3-5 breaths. Release and let the knees fall open, soles of the feet staying together. Repeat.

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• Fascial release (feet)
    Standing near a wall for support, get a small ball (tennis ball or raquet ball, or I like using the “Pinkie” and let the weight of the foot drape over the ball, rolling it from front to back, side to side. Repeat on each side

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Dowel exercises- excellent article!
Calf muscle graduated compression

Option 4: static stretch AFTER your workout only once the body is warm and receptive to the stretches. One must be careful not to exploit the flexibility of the body by sacrificing stability for deeper sensation. There must be a careful balance between “I could” and “I should.” For example, I could eat an entire chocolate cake by myself. I could also end up with type 2 diabetes because of my genetic predisposition and family history of blood sugar imbalance. So I should use restraint and eat healthily to honor my body. Always err on the side of caution and be kind to your body. It gives cues; listen to them. Honor where your body is in your specific age, stage (of life and practice) and constitution (overall health.)

*credit for this stretch goes to the fabulous Alison West.

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